HY-GIY?: Berkeley – Hope, Prayers and Bubblegum

 

With the ridiculous turnover of bands we see in this country every year, some of the finest are often slipping into the ‘hiatus’ status before slipping away from consciousness altogether. Unfortunately, when it comes to the end of the year and people start their ‘Best Of’ lists, many acts that thrilled hundreds and thousands around the country just a few years before are too often left off in favor for the current ‘act de jour’. One such band is Donegal’s very own, Berkeley.

When Tickets There first started getting down and dirty in the Irish music scene alllllll the way back in naught two (2002), Berkeley were one of the most exciting, talented and promising acts going. Their debut album, Hope Prayers and Bubblegum was released the year before and through repeated appearances supporting some of the bigger acts going, TT was hooked. In terms of energy, the band resembled the same style of ferociousness on stage as the Future Kings of Spain and on record, they sounded like a undiscovered grunge act more than deserving of their chance at the big time. Fans of The Pixies, Nirvana and Big Black, will be surprised to learn that Mr. Steve Albini was sent a copy of the bands demo’s for the album and he instantly agreed to produce the album for the guys. What you have is one of the best Irish albums of the last ten years, maybe more.

Kicking things of is the chaotic, stripped back New Heavy, an obvious nod to the songs working title. New Heavy sounds like someone placed a few random mikes around the room and told the band to go mental. Very similar to At The Drive In’s style, the band shred and roar their way through some blistering moments of well composed anger. The changes and riffs are top of their game and the bands onstage rawness couldn’t be captured any better.  Not to let things down, the band jump right back with Follow Through which starts off as a full on guitar monster before the bands sublime side show’s itself and suddenly the raw, aggressive guitars are replaced with polished melodies and soft vocals. Within seconds the song’s transformed again as the guitars go to full distortion and once again we’re back in full swing.

One Way Out is a much more somber affair. The song’s composition is much grander than the first two numbers. The verse is similar to Follow Through but the chorus attempts to reach another, deeper level making the song one of the more serious styled numbers on the record. A great tune but it quickly fades away when you hear the funk fueled bass line opening of Explanations. This is a number that’s alot more radio friendly than the previous numbers and the overall production is much tighter during the heavier moments.

Ah hell, buy this album. Tickets There ain’t to tell you what every single track is like (well…you kind of are when you’re reviewing an album – Ed), where’s the magic in that? We guarantee you that if you’re a fan of At The Drive In, The Mars Volta or uplifting-ish grunge, you should like Berkeley. They write brilliant songs, they play well and they disappeared completely about two years ago. Buy their record, show them you love them and maybe we’ll coheres them into returning one day….I just got  a taste of Guinness from a plastic cup in Whelan’s.

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